LOGAN – Cache County Gardners’ Market (CCGM) will open May 9 at last year’s location, behind the Cache County Administrative building at 200 North and Main Street. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food gave approval for the state’s farmers markets yesterday, April 20.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Logan Wilde said in a recent interview that farmers markets are an essential part of the state’s food supply. But they are trying to re-imagine how they work.
“Farmers markets are grocery stores to our local communities. If those safety structures and safety nets can be put in place, whether it’s social distancing or making sure the food is safe, they’ll still go forth,” he said. “For some, they are an essential lifeline to quality produce.”
Federal food assistance programs utilize the markets, and for some farmers they’re the sole source of income.
This year’s president of the organization, Penny Trinca, said they thought changes were in store for the event with the pandemic.
“We were thinking ahead and have been thinking of things we could do to keep it safe,” she said. “No one can touch the produce except the person selling it.”
Trinca has been involved with the CCGM since 1997 and has a successful garlic and produce growing business. She farms five acres in Nibley.
Mary Laine, the marketing manager for the CCGM, said posters were ready to be hung. They were just waiting for the approval.
The Sustainable Agriculture Association of the Bear River Area, a 501-C organization which Laine is a member of, organizes the event yearly.
“We were on hold until we got the proper approvals,” Laine said. “We were prepared for their guidelines.”
The board will be meeting to go over the guidelines set by the UDFA.
The market may look a little different than it has in the past.
“There will be no bands or entertainment, no food trucks and no crafts,” she said. “There will be booths with produce and other homegrown foods, but they will probably be further apart.”
Vendors will have to advertise what they are selling on social media and people will order online and come to the booth to pick up their order. The group wants to respect social distancing by not having a large crowd.
“There will be no shopping the different booths,” Laine said. “They come in get their stuff and leave.”
Organizers are trying to go cashless this year. They would like everyone to use Venmo or Paypal, or other electronic pay systems.
The Double Up Food Bucks program for people on food stamps will still be in play.
The Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of federal nutrition benefits (SNAP or food stamps) spent at participating markets and grocery stores. The program helps participants bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers.
The program is in place to help low-income consumers eat more healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
Laine said they are working on a system to make sure the tokens used for the Double Up program will be sterile.